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Tampa teacher and Army veteran Nick Salerno inspires students to stay active and upbeat

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Posted at 6:38 AM, Aug 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-24 08:46:25-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Nick Salerno is in the best shape of his life.

This is saying a lot, considering that the 34-year-old was once a young soldier in the U.S. Army, sweating and working in the heat of Afghanistan.

"I'm proof that good things happen when you stay active and stay positive," said Salerno, whose positivity was once tested in the most nightmarish of ways.

He loves his job as a phys-ed teacher at Brooks DeBartolo Collegiate High School in Tampa.

Salerno specializes in weightlifting. His classes are packed with all walks of life hoping to shape up.

"Coach Salerno makes me want to work harder," said junior Cade Hoffman. "He's just super inspiring."

In 2010, while on patrol in Afghanistan, Salerno stepped on an IED. When he woke up back in America, his right leg was gone.

For several years, he said, he "just kind of laid around in bed, feeling sorry for myself. 'Oh, my leg hurts, my leg hurts.'"

Then one day, he got out of bed.

And, on a whim, he went to the gym.

And then went to the gym again.

"I wanted to change things," said Salerno, who wears a prosthetic. "That opened my eyes to how important being physically active really is."

Salerno turned his life around through working out, staying active and staying positive.

Next, he wanted to share his message. The answer was obvious.

"I thought, hey, a teacher!"

Salerno's inspiring story and way of connecting with his students have made him a star at Brooks DeBartolo.

He said it's the best place he's ever worked.

"One day, I just started exercising," Salerno said. "And look where I am now."